Easter Sunrise Service, April 1, 2018
The Dawn of Eastered Light
Pastor Donna Buell
I invite you to spend a few moments looking at the palm cross that was on your chair as you arrived this morning. Spend some time focusing on that simple cross. Think about the events in the life of Jesus that you associate with the cross, the events about which we heard on Thursday evening. Think about the symbolic meaning the cross holds for your faith. Think as well about the shape of the cross, with its horizontal and vertical lines, and pay particular attention to the way in which the cross is formed by the intersection of those two lines.
An Irish church historian named Eamon Duffy once wrote: “The cross is not some arbitrary demand of God imposed on a hapless victim, but a marker where human beings find themselves at the intersection of justice and mercy, time and eternity, death and life.”
I like that image of the cross being a marker where we find ourselves at the intersection. We often think of intersections as places of decision; as times when we must choose which way we will go –straight ahead, or to the left, or to the right? And I believe the cross is that. It does set before us a choice about which way we will go and about the way or spirit in which we will go. On Palm Sunday Marty contrasted the Imperial Way represented by Pilate with the Jesus Way of servant leadership. But he wasn’t talking about diverging ways; he was talking about ways, coming from the west and the east, which intersected in the city of Jerusalem, and ultimately intersected on the cross.
I like the thought of the cross being the intersection where things come together, where the human intersects with the divine in the person of Jesus – in his incarnation; where the ways of the kingdoms of this world intersect with the way of God’s kingdom – where the way of humanity’s brokenness and sin intersects with the way of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness. And in that intersection we find sustenance for the journey of faith as comfort intersects with sorrow, as life intersects with death, as hope intersects with despair, as peace intersects with conflict, as mercy intersects with judgment, as God’s presence intersects with God-forsakenness.
The Celtic peoples talk about thin places, sacred spaces where the membrane between life and death, heaven and earth, spirit and matter is so thin that they touch, even if only for a moment. Thin places might be sacred spaces that are saturated with a history of prayer, border places like a coastline where the sea and the land touch, or the horizon where earth appears to meet the sky, or that moment when a new life is born, or when a dying person takes their last breath. The dawning of a new day, and twilight at day’s end can also be thin places that catch our attention, that cause us to stop and be in the moment, if only for a moment.
I found myself thinking this week about the 4 day silent retreat Marty and I experienced in Northern California 4 years ago. That was sacred space. And I spent a lot of time outdoors during those retreat days. The weather was gorgeous and there were no mosquitos. And one evening I decided to stay outside for the sunset. I didn’t just want to wait until the sun dropped below the distant horizon, but until the light was gone and the stars appeared. It took hours. And this morning, though the internet tells me that today’s sunrise takes place at 6:47 am, we all have seen how slowly and gradually the night becomes as day.
We stand at the intersection this morning – not just the intersection of Greeley and Myrtle, but the intersection of night and day, of darkness and light. And on this Easter morning, we stand, with the women who came to the tomb at dawn on the third day, hearts heavy with sorrow and grief, and found an empty tomb, and angels with a puzzling message, which led to the first inklings of resurrection faith. And I am reminded of a short poem by Mary Zimmer called “The Dawn of Eastered Light”:
The Dawn of Eastered Light
Each day the earth rotates toward Eastered light.
Lean on the earth.
fall into the infinite grace of God’s YES.
I like that image of the Dawn of Eastered Light and of the earth rotating toward that light that is always there. For it has been my experience that the good news of the resurrection does not come to anyone once and for all, like the flip of a giant light switch, taking us from darkest midnight to noonday bright in an instant. Instead, I think the good news of the resurrection comes to us like the dawn of a new day. And with each new day, comes the possibility of being touched again by Eastered light.
Things aren’t going to change dramatically all at once. The dawn comes on gradually. It isn’t something we control. It isn’t something we can rush or slow or stop or reverse. (I have this flash of Superman flying against the rotation of the earth in an effort to slow down time. We can’t do that.) So, I think Mary Zimmer is wise to suggest that we lean on the earth as it rotates toward Eastered light – that we lean onto and into those signs of life and love and justice and hope and mercy and peace – that we surrender control and fall into the infinite grace of God’s YES. GOD’s YES. God’s YES to life. God’s YES to love. God’s YES to justice. God’s YES to the way of Jesus. God’s YES to us. God’s YES to all. God’s YES to the future – because Jesus Christ is risen! Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Amen.